Hello, I'm Kerry Guard and welcome to Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.
Hope you all are having a wonderful 2023 so far. Two weeks in… so far so good?
Well, let’s kick off this second week strong with this week’s guest, Jon-Eric Cornellier from Blumira. I love this conversation so much. It’s exactly what we need, given today’s climate of tighter budgets and big impact.
Jon-Eric joins me to discuss how to make a big splash when you are a small fish in a big pond. As cyber security marketers, especially those in growth stages, are definitely looking to get found and Jon-Eric shares story after story of how he’s been able to help multiple cyber security companies go from startup to buy-out using less conventional ways….
Jon-Eric Cornellier is currently the marketing director at Blumira. He has over 12+ years of marketing experience, having worked across e-commerce, insurance, and security companies.
Here is my conversation with Jon-Eric.
Kerry Guard: Hello, John Eric. Thank you for joining me on Tea Time with Tech Marketing Leaders.
Jon Eric Cornellier: Hi, Kerry. Thank you very much for having me.
Kerry Guard: I'm so stoked to have you and for our conversation that I'm gonna tease out a little bit because it's a good one. But before we get there, though, John Eric, tell us your story. Everybody found marketing or marketing found them; no story is the same. Tell us, what do you do? And how did you get there?
Jon Eric Cornellier: I am currently the marketing director at Blumira. I've been here for about a year and a half, closing in on two years. It's been a wild ride. It's security startups. It's startup life. It's been fantastic how I ended up here. I've kind of bounced around. I was at an education company, and before this, I was working for nonprofit fundraising before that in marketing, working software. I spent some time in insurance, which is very interesting in its own right, so I've bounced around. I did an internship for a sports organization and whatever I got my hands on. I like to learn new things.
I've ended up here in security, where I always wanted to try and get to. It's in my hierarchy of marketing industries. B2B and B2B SaaS are the top and even the top of the top. This is the toughest market I've ever been in, and I like that challenge. I want that challenge. It's part of why I wanted to get into this space and I'm still here. Do you ever want to go into why I got into marketing in general? What’s the story?
Kerry Guard: Yes. Tell me, why marketing?
Jon Eric Cornellier: So not to Tarantino and so to speak, but the ending of the story is, your mother is always right. Growing up in high school, I was on track to becoming an engineer. I was taking engineering classes and upper math classes. My grandpa had been an engineer like this in my senior year. I took a video production class and fell in love with digital editing. I was like, “Oh, my God, this is what I want to do.” I graduated, but I didn't go the normal route to college. I went to a trade school and got into it. And I was like, “Oh, this is awful.” Because I sit in a dark room for 40 to 50 hours a day by myself, quickly tried to pivot out of that, and I was like, “Oh, my God, what do I do now?” I'm 19 having this existential crisis about what I will do with the rest of my life, and my mom said, “Stop. Go get an advertiser for your marketing degree.” I don't know when she's like, “No.”
As a kid, and then a teenager and stuff like that, my mom and I used to play this game where when a commercial came on TV, you had to guess what the brand and the product was before they set it or showed it because of so many ads and there's some build-up to it. I crushed my mom every time. I also watched five times more TV than she did. But ads resonated with me. I love the concept of Viet. She's like, “No, that's what you need to do.” And that's where I spent a few years at a community college to get my foundation underneath me. I got my bachelor's from Michigan State Advertising and my masters from Central Michigan Marketing. She was right. This is where I'm meant to be. I have that little creative aspect and am a big data person. I'm very data-driven. So, that engineering brain and math brain that existed in high school still kind of gets to exist, but I should have just listened to my mom.
Kerry Guard: I had a similar journey as I went to school for photography, and I found myself photographing billboards. It's a similar interesting journey. I loved the darkroom and had to be dragged out of it kicking and screaming. I love the solid solitude that way. So we're a little different there. But, from this fascination with advertising to the point where it became the focus is on my photographs. It's so cool that art background and mathematics collide in marketing, and I love it for the same reason. What a great story! Thank you for sharing.
You mentioned cybersecurity and this being your mission where you wanted to get to. One security feels new-ish. I mean, it isn't. So, how did you discover the security industry? And then what made you decide that this was it for you?
Jon Eric Cornellier: So big picture. I'm a marketer and somebody that sounds go-to-market sales team. I'm very altruistic. I believe in the greater good, and I want to do things. That's how I stepped into the nonprofit role where I was for a little bit, even in education, and that's why I left insurance. When you're looking for B2B SaaS, there are not a lot of industries. They truly are helping make a difference in the world. I'm not saying selling widgets and other software isn't great, but I wanted to try and find something that made a difference. My first exposure to the industry came through a really good friend, Mike Hanley, who was at Duo Security and was there for a long time through acquisition. And talking about the cool things he was doing, not just because Duo was this great culture, but what the product was doing and how it was helping people is pretty cool.
When I started looking for my next opportunity and ran into Blumira, we had some former duo people. I talked to Mike and said, “Hey, I want to get in. I think this is the pinnacle of this space. It's helping people. Is this a good company?” He said, “Oh, yeah. The people are great, and the product is unbelievable. And what they're doing there is cool. They are changing the space and helping people who normally can't get security.” I was like, “Great. I'm in. Do you stuff to interview for the job?” I was fortunate to get it. Being ultra-competitive in this industry and being able to help people is a good balance that I'm happy to be a part of, specifically at Blumira that we help small and mid-market that don't necessarily have the resources to go get a lot of the security tools that exist today. It's pretty cool. It's just that extra cherry on top, for sure.
Kerry Guard: Before we go down this rabbit hole, we'll come back to it because I have many questions that will lead into our topic. But before I get there, I like to ask this question because we're all human and in marketing, and most of us are in cyberspace. We have interesting challenges. So, what’s the big, hairy, scary challenge you're facing right now? What's the thing that's keeping you up at night?
Jon Eric Cornellier: The interesting thing we're at is what I just talked about is that we've created a security product for people who aren't used to having security products available to them. It's finding and educating that audience that not just these tools exist. These tools exist for you. You don't need to hire another security analyst to run this product. Your SIS admin can do it, and that's why we've created this thing. It's tough. Some of the additional methods aren't necessarily there for us in the ways that would make it easy. It's an uphill fight, a climber, longer path, so to speak, to get to some of these markets because they're not out there looking as much for us. So that's where we're at. But when you find it right and see it, you click and see them use the product. It's fantastic. So we will continue the hunt and continue to do the right thing.
Kerry Guard: I love that. We're creating a category.
Jon Eric Cornellier: In a sense, some category, if you will. It's interesting, that's for sure.
Kerry Guard: It's hard to convince people. They have a problem, and they don't know that they have a problem, but they think it will help you with the problem you don't want to have.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It's a lot. I don't want to have fear because nobody wants to market with fear. But, the fear that ransomware and attacks happen on small and mid-market businesses. There was this belief for a long time. Nobody cares about us. We're only a 200-person company. They're not. They're not coming after us. Well, that teenager over wherever doesn't care if they can get in. They're going to get in and have some fun. Big and small, left and right. It doesn't matter, though. They're going across everybody in the globe, so they realize there's a problem, but they don't know where to start. They've heard of certain words, or they know certain terms, and they start looking, and in the same space where we're at, it's traditionally on an enterprise play. They skip the category altogether a lot of times. We're starting to turn some heads, and it's fun. It's very comforting and reassuring when we're at some of these shows. You see some of these. They come up and want the T-shirts, so they come to talk to you at your booth, and you talk about what you do and say, “Wait, you can't do that.” I'm like, “No, we can, and here's how we do it.” They work at an enterprise account, so they know the space well, and they’ll say, “I'm not going to buy that. But that's cool.” And I'm like, “Thanks” At least we'll take that right, so we're on the right path.
Kerry Guard: I'm going to circle back to that because I have a follow-up question. But I want to come back to your story and the companies you've worked for. You mentioned startups and that you're really into startups. What's the biggest company or team you've been a part of?
Jon Eric Cornellier: Biggest marketing team or biggest company?
Kerry Guard: Both. Start with the biggest company you've been at.
Jon Eric Cornellier: So technically, I've been acquired three times. If you want to count those, the insurance company that bought the small insurance company I worked for was about 500 people. They did about a billion dollars in revenue. So towards the end, there’s a whole bunch of insurances that people don't even know exist and insurance underwriting. It's crazy. But anyways, so that one, and then strike learning, was who bought me when I was at the educational place, and they employ schools and teachers and stuff. I typically make my way out once that happens and move on to the next adventure. So within the startup side, in the small business side, maybe 100 or 120 people before the acquisition is usually where we're at, then absorbed into something bigger.
Kerry Guar: And the marketing teams you've worked for, how many people have you had on your teams before?
Jon Eric Cornellier: Seven or eight was the biggest. There was a little side talk of some training people who were technically marketing that put us to ten. One of them was a three-person or four-person team now. I was three, then fourth, the last place, and three before that. Small teams have lots of shared responsibilities, and working together, and whiteboarding and figuring stuff out is what I like to do.
Kerry Guard: Lots of hats. So the companies you've worked for in the grand scheme are very big. So you're this small fish, and especially in cyber, small fish in a very big pond. How do you make a splash? How do you get seen in such a crowded space?
Jon Eric Cornellier: There are many ways to do it. I'm going to say a whole bunch of cliches that people already know. It has to do with having the right mindset going into that. We exhibited at RSA and are in a ten-by-ten at RSA. We are the small fish in a big pond that is RSA, but I'm not trying to have a better show, come up with more leads, or close more deals than the people in twenty-by-twenty or forty-by-forty. It’s not realistic. Can I have a good show that produces the ROI number that we want? Yes, we can still find that. We don't need to eat the whole cookie. We just need to get our crumbs. It's having that mindset.
In one of the startups I was at in the nonprofit space, we stole somebody from a very big, large data company that was very well known. She was on our analytics team or something. She helped out with marketing; I can't remember the exact campaign, but she was like, "Oh, no, let's do this, and we can come up with something simple like this." And nobody's going to click on that. Nobody's going to react to that. She's like, "Oh, but that's what we did at big company X." And I was like, "That's because they knew who you were." We can't do that. We have to be much more forward with our messaging, and we can get creative with it. You still have to make sure you're telling people what you do because they don't know what you do. If I say McDonald's, everybody knows what McDonald's sells and what McDonald's is. But if you're a mom-and-pop restaurant, you've got to say, "We sell tacos" or "We sell burgers." You have to make sure you're explaining it to them. It's an interesting problem, but being creative with your ideas—and I know that's fairly cliche. Everybody wants to be creative but trying to just step outside the box of the normal little bit and don't waste an opportunity. That's the other big one that comes to mind that I've seen before, and this one, please don't look at the map, but there were the 10 by 10s around us at Blue Mirror at RSA. Some people had counters or tables at the front of the booth, and one or two people just sat behind that counter for three days, and I'm like, "What do you do?" I'm in the ILA. Some of you might recognize me or remember this: I was flagging people down with t-shirts and pulling them in, and I was telling people that the blue color of our shirts brought out the color of their eyes just to try and break the conversation. Let's have a little fun. I'm spending a large amount of my budget on that show. We need to make sure we get every conversation we can. It always boggled my mind when there were other small ten-by-10s, and they were just sitting there looking at the people smiling and trying to be nice. People aren't going to RSA to talk to you; they're going to see those 45 by 40s. You've got to bring them in; you have to grab their attention and make sure you get everything you can out of that event.
Kerry Guard: Events seem to be something you lean pretty heavily in. Is that always been the case, or is that specifically Blumira?
Jon Eric Cornellier: No, a little bit of both. In B2B, the event background events have always been a core pillar outside the COVID years and the break there. It's where you can get in front of people, and buyers, big and small, are there. In some ways, it does level the playing field. I'm not in 40 by 40, but there's a good chance you got to walk by my booth to get there. I've got that opportunity to get in front of you. We've done not just here from here, but in my past, a lot of the smaller shows, the ones in the hotel lobbies. And at that point, everybody's in a ten-by-ten and everybody's got the shot to get in front of that person and talk to them. So doing that and trying to have some fun at events I've been part of to where we've made our sponsorship, we've gone to the host and said, “Hey, we don't want to do the drink cart. We want to do this. Will you tell us how much we need to pay you? If you help and support us, we'll do this.” This is probably my favorite campaign we've ever done. It was a small tradeshow couple of 100 people, and it was all in one hotel.
Everybody flies in the day before because there's a party that night, and then the conference goes to the next two days. We reached out to the sponsor and said, “Hey, look, we are the controlling association. We want to do something different.” We know everybody comes in at this time. We know everybody comes to this hotel but can't say this one across the street, and that's how it always goes. We want to provide transportation from the hotel, from the airport to the hotel. If you help us spread the word that here's where we're going to be, and it's free, they don't have to file an Uber or get a cab if you help shuttle them to us. You tell us what you want us to sponsor your fee, and we'll pay for all the buses and stuff we need. And they're like, “Oh my God, that's fantastic.”
One of the complaints we get all the time is that there's no transportation around, and they charged us a very small fee compared to the rest of the sponsorships because we were helping them out. Then, I'm calling up places in Miami to find buses and stuff for the shuttle. You talk to the people on the phone and tell them your gig, and you explain what you're trying to do and make a splash. I got lucky that the guy on the other end of the phone said, “Yeah, this sounds great. I got an idea. I'm not going to give you the two little party buses you wanted.” He said, “What if I give you two full-on rockstar tour buses to move people back and forth?” And I replied, “All right, but how much does that cost?” “We never use these things. I gotta get him in service every once in a while.”, “same cost as the mini buses.” “Alright, I'm in.” So we contacted another company and did some window clings on the side. We had branded the buses inside. We had videos running, and we were just picking. We ran the eight hours-ish that people normally fly in. And it was just two buses making loops from the hotel to the airport. People loved it. We had our sales teams on the bus, and they got to schmooze a little bit. It was fantastic. It was a product launch of ours. It was cool, and they had never done it. The sponsor or the main company was super excited that it was there.
Everybody was so happy that they had free transportation. It wasn't like, "Oh, I gotta find the Uber line or a taxi." First, don't go to the carousel; see your carousel and see for luggage; then go out those doors, and you're going to see this giant bus with the name of the conference and come get on it. We were in the nonprofit space, and everything was a little more fun, cheesy, and kooky. We rented fortune tellers to sit on the buses. And while you waited for the bus to leave, and the 20-minute drive to the hotel, people got their fortunes told, it was great, and people loved us, and everybody kept thanking us throughout the event and coming and stopping by our booth. It was a major success and helped make that event something like, "Hey, let's get our crumbs." We took a whole bite out of the cookie. It was good. Nobody had ever thought to do that. So we did, and it didn't cost us any more money than the sponsorships we would have done otherwise. It's just finding little ways to be a little bit creative and different.
Kerry Guard: It sounds like RSA. I'm sure it's much more expensive than the smaller trade shows. Do you get to be more creative at the smaller trade shows than at the bigger event?
Jon Eric Cornellier: A lot of times. Because there's less going on, and they're more confined to one area. They haven't done as much. With the history RSA has and the size and budgets that most people have, is it going to be hard to come up with something new that has never been done at RSA? Probably! So spread out the airport shuttle things. If you have a huge budget, you can make it work. Smaller shows that are confined to an area tend to have more options, such as backdrops, which have existed forever. We've done it, and a lot of events already have some type of party or after party, but we went to one and said, "Hey, you guys have this reception." It only goes from five to seven. "If we rent the bar out across the street and throw an after-party, we will give everybody a few free drink tickets. Will you help promote it?" "Yeah, that sounds great." We'll make you the official after-party sponsor." And that then existed. The first year, we did it without telling them, and they weren't as happy because we just threw a party, and it would never be over; they weren't too mad. They wish you had told us, saying, "Okay, we'll do it next year." And I replied, "Okay, we'll charge you a small sponsor. We get it. Make sure you always check with the people that the smaller events lend themselves to being a bit more creative. And in both instances, we knew that was our target market. We knew the people there were the ones we needed to talk to. It was worth pushing a little bit and putting a little bit more budget into no-shows.
Kerry Guard: It sounds like RSA, you weren't necessarily getting. I don't know if you said it before we started getting going. But you mentioned, at some point in our conversation, that people weren't necessarily the people you wanted to be talking to at these big shows. They're like, "Oh, I understand what you do." But I'm an enterprise. So that's not going to work for me, where it sounds like at trade shows, you were able to be a little more targeted to exactly who you wanted to talk to.
Jon Eric Cornellier: RSA is just more of a grand back. There's everybody there. Of the 100 people that walk by at any given time, we probably only need to talk to 15, as opposed to some of the smaller shows, where maybe 50 or 60 people fit more of our demographic. So, that's one of the things we're still figuring out with the audience that we have. Should we be going to some of these? Do we need to keep going to RSA and Blackhat? Should we focus on some of the smaller shows or find some stuff outside the traditional security pathway because of who our target audiences are? Making sure we do the research and letting the data drive the decisions. Don't go back if it doesn't work. If you didn't see the ROI or the movement you wanted, don't go back just because other people did. Just because other people did it doesn't mean you have to. We've got a love-hate relationship with Google AdWords because of that. I'm not an expert. Some of your listeners may know more about this than I do, but I know they have the broad match modifier and the changes they made to their algorithm. That hurts small businesses. Everybody says, "Oh, we'll add more negative keywords." I've tried that, and we've had a couple of hundred lists of negative keywords go in there. He just lends it to the people with bigger budgets who are willing to pay more to get more. If they make more money off their ad revenue, that's their job. I can't blame them for that. But not having that ability or having that extra asset or setting has hurt some of us with smaller budgets and bit rates.
Kerry Guard: My team could talk to you about that all day. Their pain for some of our clients when that happened, for sure. I want to go back to events. I find this fascinating, mostly because I don't run events or know much about events.
My dad and his partner have been part of events in their careers, running and setting them up as the tech people behind the scenes. I've dabbled from that and see how it all stands on that side. But from a marketing side, I've always found it fascinating and how it works with the sponsorships versus the booths versus the events you can hold and how you sponsor those. And you mentioned ROI on it; how are you capturing it? Is it just capturing leads as people walk by your booth? Is it panning out your card and hoping they come to your website? And how are you? How do you measure organic?
Jon Eric Cornellier: The two main ones I was trying to look at were those booth scans. We've got a pretty good set-up in our HubSpot to track like, "Okay, we know this contact came from our site." "It's turned into a deal." "Okay, that deals gone closed when we can attach that value back to RSA." Six months or eight months later, this person came to a webinar, and now they're engaging in sales, and there's an opportunity, but where did that come from? They came to the webinar, but they originally started at RSA. Let's make sure RSA gets some credit for that. It's trying to track things through the system from the leads, and then the big one is trying to pay attention to traffic in and around the event. If you're doing something extra little part of your little event, that's more of a buzz note or buzzworthy type of thing. Looking at it, is it typically the direct traffic or the organic traffic that's coming in, and did it spike? Did it change? We're trying to control if we run anything else or launch some new big SEO piece, but we're also trying to see who's coming in. Are you getting more branded traffic clicks? Do you see more direct traffic for filing the other two big ones?
Kerry Guard: You talk about wearing a lot of hats and being part of a small marketing team. Some of the bigger cyber companies, certainly some of the ones we've worked with, have their own events and teams, where this is all they do. This is a very big part of what you do. Is that because you have a background in it, love it, and certainly have seen its ROI? Or is that because it is the thing for the types of companies you work with and the size that they are that this is the thing that you found to work?
Jon Eric Cornellier: Coming in and helping get the go-to-market off the ground and Blumira, it was where we started with events. Because that's where you traditionally do find success. I'll be upfront that we've had some good misses this year on our event side of things that were like, “Oh, this seems a good event.” It's a good security event. You look at who else sponsors it, and there are some of our competitors, like, “Let's go.” And it wasn't too technical for our show or the enterprise of a show.
All those people that come into your LinkedIn and say, "Hey, we can set up meetings for you." "Would you like to talk to GM, Ford, and Coca-Cola?" "No! "I don't like it." "We can send you a list, and you'll recognize most people," "If you can recognize the people, I probably don't want to talk to them." That's where we're at. It is small, and that's where we've tried to go, and even as RSA, could we afford to go to a ten by 20? No. Let's do our small ten-by-ten scouted out and see what's there. Our strategy is constantly evolving on the event side. We went pretty good into it in 2022, but it's coming out of that and going, "Oh, that one's missing." "We did good there." "Let's go back to that one." Or, "hey, that one crushed." "Let's put a little bit more budget into that one or add a sponsorship for sending one extra person to try and be there for networking." It's letting a lot of that ROI dictate what we are doing and where we need to be going.
Kerry Guard: In terms of lots of hats, you were at the other thing I found interesting that you said was that you were in the booth. Typically, it's about sales.
Jon Eric Cornellier:It depends on where you are and how big your team is. We had a small marketing and sales team; we even had somebody, Amanda Berlin, who was one of our detection engineers. She was speaking at RSA. You needed help with the booth the first few days, so she was hanging out as a technical resource. We talked about the mindset of working in a small company or being the big or small fish in a big pond. It's not just you as the marketer that needs to have it; your sales team needs to be aware of it, and anybody else who can help. I'm lucky enough that I have leadership that understands and believes. We're rolling out a big initiative that we're essentially going to make. We're going to encourage those with knowledge and skill sets in the security space to start writing for us. And it began to become a company-wide thing where everybody got to read blogs. We're going to push him to do that because we have two people that look at and focus on content, one part-time, one full time and I'd love to make more content. There's more to be said; we've got more things to say. We have some incredible security resources sitting there, making our product amazing. But let's share their voice and some of their knowledge with our customers and with the world.
Kerry Guard: I'm such a believer in that. Content people are a dime a dozen; they're so hard to find, especially in the technical security space. If you have people on your staff who are writing the product and can also write about what they're doing, why they're doing it, and how this feature or whatever is going to impact the end user. Wow, that's huge.
Jon Eric Cornellier: We are very blessed. I am very blessed that our actual content marketing manager, Erica, has that technical background. She knows a bit of security and can speak a little bit of it. She's fantastic because a lot of the engineers on the back end of this cube in the back can't write, don't write code and words. She'll do the thing where she's like, "Let's skip 30 minutes; we'll record the web and code the zoom, and I'll give you the topic, and you've just ramped up." She's thinking I'll transcribe it and turn it into a blog; we'll put your name on it, and it'll sound great. They're like, "Oh, my God, this was so much better." She does a fantastic job of working with our security teams. Some of the other people are the technical people, to allow them to explain their knowledge in the way they feel most comfortable while being able to turn it into a usable resource for us on the marketing team.
Kerry Guard: I love that. I get that as an SEO agency, and that's always one of the biggest challenges we have with our clients. The content they need and the staff they have are so tough. What a creative way to navigate that! I love it. In terms of being this small team, being very creative and flexible, and finding these creative outlets, what are some other ways that are low-hanging fruit that you have found that you keep repeating? We mentioned events; I love what you're doing with content. That's awesome. What's another thing for you where you're like, "Okay, these are the resources we have," "This is where we sit in the market and something we can definitely do to make to get some ground."
Jon Eric Cornellier: Before I answer that, can I add one more of that thing?
Kerry Guard: Yeah, sure.
Jon Eric Cornellier: As this person and budget council person is like, things I buy from the event is four, five, six or seven hundred dollars sometimes to rent a TV from the event to use it for three days. Multiple times in my career, I have just gone to Target or the Walmart around the corner, bought a TV for 200 bucks, put it on a booth, and then you find a local nonprofit to give it away to at the end. Most of the time, the people that work at the tradeshow after convention centers are more than happy to take it. Their joy is that they get a free TV, and I save four or 500 bucks. The same thing with vacuums; if you're going to one of those bigger, longer shows, you paid for the carpet. And now it's $75 a day to vacuum it and go buy the Dirt Devil for $4999, and it's me at the end of the day, and I'm vacuuming the booth. The same thing, yet you find a place to donate it or somebody that wants to take it. If anybody saw me at RSA, I was at that Target by my TV, carrying it across the street in the middle of San Francisco. It is what it is, and it turned out that this is one of the booths that was biased. They found out we're giving it away, and they're like, "Oh my God!" "My son just started college; he could use a TV for his room if we'd love to take it home." So now somebody in California has a free TV in their college dorm room, and I still saved 500 bucks from what it was.
Kerry Guard: Every little help. $500 In the grand scheme of a big event probably doesn't feel much, but when you're talking about the TV, the vacuum cleaner, and some other things.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It's going from the cheap t-shirt to the nicer t-shirt that people want. It's as bad as that sounds if you're handing out the 100% cotton or the tribal. People want the tribal, no matter what it says on the front of it. Having a little extra nice and saving 500 bucks adds up for us.
One of the other big go-tos that I found is finding your community. I can almost guarantee you are not the only small fish in that big pond, and so finding that community that you can work with and do things with had a lot of luck here, doing webinars with other small fish in the security industry, and other people that are going after our same target market. We had a big product launch in April of 2022. It was giving away our free edition and announcing our free edition. It's free for small kids to come and use. So we went and looked through the cybersecurity marketing society and said, "Who else has a free product?" "We want to launch this thing; we want to put it around so that there are free tools for small businesses to come and use that you're going to get real security value from, not just from who offers a trial, but from who offers an actual free edition for people to come to us." We got eight other companies to come on and join. We're going to host it, but we're only at the end, and we're gonna say, "who do you want to hear from?" and that's how we're gonna divide the leads up. We will contact any of the people you brought in, unless they say they want to be contacted. We had a couple of 100 people show up to the webinar, and it was 500 people, which is a small fish big pond; that's a huge number for us to get in front.
Kerry Guard: Especially when it's a tough audience. Five hundred people in a very niche audience is huge.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It was great. We divided up the leads, and everybody got some hot leads to come out and chase down. Nobody paid anything. The lift wasn't too hard on most of our friends who helped us. You get seven minutes in four slides to present your free product and why it's good for small businesses. It was great. It was fantastic. Everybody walked out with good leads. We've done the big one and partnered with individual companies.
One of the things that always bothered me about this is that sometimes I'm the smallest of the small fish; they say, "How many people do you bring to the webinar?" And I replied, "Oh, well, we can only bring 50." We normally bring 200, so I don't think we're going to partner. And I'm like, "I just offered you a shot at 50 free leads, and you're going to do a webinar, and everybody's running webinars. Why wouldn't you take this? Unless you have people beating down your door, they're all going to bring 200 people. I'm getting the better of this deal. You're also getting something for free out of it, too. You turn that down. Finding that network to share content with, we've done some link swaps with people. If you've read the letter of the law on SEO, link swaps are not okay.
Kerry Guard: It makes sense. As long as it makes sense, you're not just dropping it there. For the sake of it. It's a thoughtful partnership.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It's a relevant site. Google doesn't know that. They didn't link to you organically, and you didn't link to them. You're in the same industry, you talk about the same things, and it seems like a natural fit. I always think about the speed limit of 70. Nobody pulls you over for go on 72 unless you're doing something real strange. It's not like you're dropping 1000s of links and swaps all at one time with companies that are completely irrelevant to you. Finding that community to be able to exchange content, share blogs, or do link swaps is great.
Kerry Guard: I want to go back real quick to the fact that the company didn't want to work with you because you weren't big enough, because I feel like this has gotten us in so much trouble these last few years, probably the last ten years, when we talk about even how we're hiring and how we don't really want to hire experts. We're not cultivating the next generation. If you're not a direct competitor, you can help each other out by being a bigger fish and reaching down to the smaller guys to support them. Just from that standpoint, regardless of how many leads you're getting, that's what we need to be cultivating in this industry. It's such a mission-driven industry that we're all after the same thing, which is to protect our end users. We're all in this boat together. Let's help each other out.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It will sit there or something like that. We've talked to some people and have gotten onto some things we want to partner with. They're coming to us. We think your mission is focused, and we have a segment of our audience that is small and medium-sized businesses. We think we're a good fit, and they're like, "Oh, we'll bring a couple of thousand people to the webinar." "Okay, how much are you looking for me to pay because that's a huge audience for me" And they're like, "No, we just want you to be a part of it." And I'm like, "Awesome." That's when you know you're going to run this webinar and talk about stuff for small businesses. You want another security tool for the small businesses out there. You picked a small person to join you; kudos to you. That's really cool. That's doing the right thing. As cliche as that is, I try to live by; that's something the companies I want to work for and I want them to do. It's good to see others in the industry doing that, too. So there are both sides.
Kerry Guard: Okay, that makes you feel a little better.
Jon Eric Cornellier: We're even offering to do most of the work. We'll build the deck like woody; you will have somebody show up and read the seven slides that they already know.
Kerry Guard: I have two questions about this because I love what you're talking about with the webinars, partnerships, and bringing in other companies. What's the promotion for those things that this idea of "if you build it, they will come" sort of notion? How do you cross-promote? How do you bring people to the webinar? Five hundred people is a good number of people to show up.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It s looking at the basics. It was using the networks that we all had. You talked about going to these shows and connecting all the dots. A lot of times they get to give you a registration list. It's always interesting having gone to events as a participant. You checked the box and can share my stuff, and it's on the opt-in list. And so we've done a really good job of, when we are eligible for those opt-in lists, emailing them and saying, "Hey, we know you're at X event; we're at X event, but you didn't stop by our booth." "We paid for the opt-in list, or you were on the opt-in list. We'll add you to our marketing, email drips; you'll find out about webinars, blogs, and our newsletter. It's typically five emails a month, and here's the link to opt out. If you want out, we're okay with that." But we want to be upfront and say that we're adding to this, and you just don't randomly start getting invites to random webinars. We've grown a decent-sized email list that is non-leads and aren't people I've talked to in sales. Making sure we engage them with fun topics using organic social and Twitter. We're lucky that some of our team is willing to go out and share some of the stuff and repost on LinkedIn. I went to the virtual HubSpot inbound conference. One of the speakers talked about how to hack the organic side of difference hacks where we weren't to use, in the context that we're in security, but how to get the most out of the algorithms within certain social sites. They talked about the best way to see the organic spread and success on LinkedIn is to comment on a post within the first four hours. He had some graphs that just showed how much they could impact. It's that whole small team buy-in that if we post something and it's something that we want to try and push, like that webinar, it's, "Hey, please go share and comment on the original post." Not everybody in the company does it, but our sales teams bought in; how long does it take them to comment to share it to their network, and how many random connections do they have? Because of their sales outreach, they're trying to cold-call people nowadays. They buy in and get that, and again, with that one specific webinar, it wasn't just us; it was getting a majority of the partners of the collaborators to come on and do the same thing and tag each other. Tagging the individual people, a lot of times in this industry, the individual has a bigger following than the brand. I've mentioned Amanda; once I spoke at RSA, she was great for us. I don't want her to ever use her personal clout too much for us, but when there's something that we do that she likes and she shares that with our network, we see a bigger response. It's using all the resources you have and getting everybody to do the same if you get four different companies on a webinar, and they're all willing to hit their email list once or twice, and they all do it on social and get their teams to engage on it. You're forming a network rivaling some of those bigger fish, and you will be able to bring larger audiences to view that piece of content.
Kerry Guard: Oh, my gosh, I love that. That's so cool. I have so many ideas now. You're a small fish in a big agency pond; some have gotten my brain skeleton. I'm excited, though. I appreciate this, John Eric. It was so good to have you on. I feel that, in terms of being a small fish in a big pond, it's very much about using the resources that you have at your fingertips, including your team, and helping them join you in the momentum that you're creating by partnering with other companies that are similar to yours, helping the same audience, and cross-promoting that way. LinkedIn is great. From that standpoint, I found that well and how much energy you've put into events, but the ROI you've delivered seems to be paying off. So being thoughtful and creative means finding the right events that make sense for you and your business. And then bring that to the community, the webinars, and the organic elements you're doing. It's all connected, I see it, and kudos to you and your team for the great work you all are doing and the mission you're on. I'm with you. Let's go.
Jon Eric Cornellier: It's been a fun ride. I look forward to what the next couple of years here brings. And to your point, it's a lot about energy. It's not always about budgeting, getting the most out of what you do, and working with the team. I've been fortunate to have sales teams and directors who have shared this mission. Any moments, time, or resources I waste pointing fingers at sales for not closing leads or not working leads, I don't have that time. I can't do that. We must put our energy into places that will help drive the business forward. It's that small pot. So making sure we're all bought in as an organization is a huge part of it.
Kerry Guard: Before we close out, I have my people's first questions because you are more than a marketer, as we heard in your story of how you got started. So thank you for sharing that with us. Three quick questions for you: The first one is, have you picked up any new hobbies? With how the world has changed, we've all been finding our passions that speak to who we are and what we want to do. Have you picked up any new passions or hobbies in the last few years?
Jon Eric Cornellier: The only thing I've picked up as a new hobby is parenting. We have a two-year-old and a second one on the way. So parenting is what I've picked up here in the COVID years. That takes up quite a bit of my time, which I love, especially as my little ones get older, develop personalities, and can do more things. He was not a happy camper as a baby. The first nine months were pretty rough, but once we got to crawling and walking. Now, he's a fun little guy who just wants to hang out and do things like that. Parenting is the big thing I've picked up in the last couple of years.
Kerry Guard: It's a hobby that can take up a lot of time and energy, but what a fulfilling hobby. If you could tell that anywhere in the world, not the world opening up, we don't need vaccination passes, and maybe the lines are dying down a little bit, where would you want to go and why?
Jon Eric Cornellier: I've always loved to be a huge traveler, and that's obviously slowed down as we've dealt with COVID and the Serbian family. So there are two—I'm going to say three—things still left on my bucket list to get done. I'm a huge sports fan, and I'm a huge baseball fan. I've been in 19 of the three major league stadiums, so getting the rest of those 11 sometime here in the future will definitely happen.
Kerry Guard: Do you have to see a specific team?
Jon Eric Cornellier: No. We do try. And so from the Detroit area, we try to see the Tigers to make it work, but a lot of times it's about logistics; it's, "Hey, where do we want to hit these two cities?" because they're close together. At what point in time do they play a game on back to back days so that we can go? It's more about fitting things logistically than ten teams and the two big ones overseas. I want to go to Europe, specifically Italy. I've been to Greece; we went on our honeymoon. It was fantastic. I have Italian heritage. I want to go to Italy and see what that's about. Then there's Australia. I don't know what it is about Australia, but something just draws me there. I don't know if it's because it's so far away or what. But I'd love to make it there as well, somehow. I want to go to all places in Europe, and I want to go to Paris. I've been to England when I was little. I'd love to go back now as an adult and experience some of that, but I want to go everywhere.
Kerry Guard: Last question for you, John Eric. If you can see your team, you have a small team of seven, and you're working remotely, and maybe you're getting together soon or maybe you've already been together, but being in the same room, walking the floor, and mingling with each other, what song would you want playing overhead to set the vibe?
Jon Eric Cornellier: Oh, my goodness! This one might take me a second to think about, and a bunch of cheesy songs is running through my head. We are family or walking on sunshine. I don't know—just something happy and upbeat. As a virtual company, we struggle a little bit to find those water cooler-type times, and we've created little virtual happy hours and breakout rooms to try and have some conversations that make you more like people and less like coworkers, but I don't know. We've got a pretty fun and happy bunch. I wouldn't be the one that picks the music. Mike, who runs our staff meetings, always has a Spotify playlist going as everybody's coming in, and he crushes it week in and week out. So Mike likes to be the one who uses the music, for sure. I would just be there dancing in five minutes, having a good time.
Kerry Guard: I love it. This is so great, Eric. I'm so grateful for this conversation and for the knowledge you shared. I hope people took lots of notes. I know I did.
Jon Eric Cornellier: Well, I hope everybody enjoyed it. Thank you so much for having me, Kerry. It's a pleasure to talk to you. It makes it easy because your energy shows how passionate you are about sharing knowledge and helping others, which is apparent. If everybody just buys their TVs and saves 500 bucks, that's all you get from this, and that's cool. Everybody should help each other out, even in the smallest ways possible.
That was my conversation with Jon-Eric Cornellier. You can find him on LinkedIn. Be sure to reach out and connect. Let him know you enjoyed the show and share your own story of how you made a splash. Swap ideas. Learn and grow! Jon-Eric’s LinkedIn is in the show notes…
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This episode was brought to you by MKG Marketing, our agency that accelerates the mission of cyber security vendors via SEO, Digital Ads, and Analytics.
It’s hosted by me, Kerry Guard, CEO and Co-founder of MKG Marketing
Music, mix, and mastering done by Austin Ellis.
And if you’d like to be a guest, please visit mkgmarketinginc.com to apply
Jon-Eric Cornellier is the Marketing Director at Blumira.